Consumer Trends & Predictions: Travel During Thanksgiving Week in 2023

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Historically, Thanksgiving week has stood out as one of the busiest travel times of the year. In fact, in 2022, it was predicted that 55 million Americans would be traveling during Thanksgiving week. So, will the travel and hospitality industry boom as Thanksgiving approaches in 2023? In the last few years, the travel industry has faced unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. While the industry shows signs of recovery, the rise in inflation last year led to soaring fares, greatly impacting consumer behavior during Thanksgiving week. What can the travel industry expect this Thanksgiving season?

To gain insight into what Thanksgiving travel may look like in 2023, we examined consumer foot traffic to transportation locations and accommodations during the week of Thanksgiving in 2022.

Foot Traffic to Transportation Venues

During Thanksgiving week in 2022, almost all transportation venues we analyzed experienced notable decreases in foot traffic. Airports saw the most significant decrease in foot traffic, declining by 38% during Thanksgiving week compared to all other weeks. Train stations, bus stations, and public parking lots also saw decreases of 21%, 10%, and 9%, respectively. Rental car locations, however, saw a notable increase of 6% during Thanksgiving week.

The data suggests that rising inflation may have contributed to higher airfares and may have influenced travelers to consider rental cars as a more cost-effective option than flights. In addition, long-distance train travel can be relatively expensive during peak holiday periods like Thanksgiving as well, which may have further influenced consumers to opt for cost-conscious options. Furthermore, while there is usually less business travel and commuting during the week of Thanksgiving, many consumers may have foregone leisure travel as well to conserve funds, resulting in less foot traffic across the board. So, what does this mean for Thanksgiving travel trends this year?

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Given the ongoing economic challenges that consumers are facing today, like high inflation, elevated interest rates, and resumed student loan repayments, Thanksgiving travel trends in 2023 may mirror those in 2022. We will likely see a continued decline in foot traffic to airports, bus stations, and train stations, while rental cars will remain a popular alternative. On top of that, as consumers continue to look for budget-friendly options, they may increasingly choose to use their personal vehicles for their travel plans this year, which could result in decreased foot traffic to transportation venues across the country.

Foot Traffic to Accomodations

During Thanksgiving week in 2022, all types of accommodations experienced significant declines in foot traffic compared to all other weeks. Destination resorts saw a substantial decrease of 34%, hotels experienced a 33% decline, and motels and inns both saw a 14% decrease. Similarly, lodges and golf resorts experienced a 6% decrease in foot traffic.

The data indicates a shift in consumer behavior in response to post-pandemic economic challenges that occurred in 2022. Many consumers likely opted to cut costs by staying with family or friends during their Thanksgiving travels rather than booking accommodations, resulting in dramatically lowered foot traffic to accommodations during Thanksgiving week last year. It is also likely that many consumers chose to stay home on Thanksgiving last year, contributing to the decrease in foot traffic to accommodations of all types.

This year, foot traffic to accommodations during Thanksgiving week may look like the trends seen in 2022 as consumers continue to grapple with economic challenges. This will likely result in lower foot traffic to all types of accommodations as travelers opt for more cost-effective options, including staying with family or celebrating at home during the holiday. But what other travel trends may arise as consumers look for ways to save while celebrating?

Travel During Thanksgiving Week in 2023

While many consumers may choose to visit close friends and family over long-distance travel, many others will likely choose to stay home, cutting travel costs and foot traffic to transportation and accommodations locations. However, what about consumers who still want to travel on a budget this year?

The week of Thanksgiving is a peak time of year for travel, making for crowded transportation venues and sky-high fares. To avoid paying the price of traveling during such a busy holiday, we may see an increase in consumers choosing to travel on less common travel dates for Thanksgiving. For example, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving tends to be one of the busiest days for travel during Thanksgiving week, so consumers may opt to travel to their destinations earlier in the week to avoid long lines, busy crowds, and high prices. Consumers may also choose to travel on Black Friday, or the Friday after Thanksgiving, as this tends to be a less busy travel day during Thanksgiving week.

Looking ahead to Thanksgiving 2023, it’s evident that economic challenges, including high inflation, elevated interest rates, and resumed student loan repayments, will continue to shape travel trends, with travelers continuing to favor cost-effective choices during the holiday season this year.

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